Shreya Ujjaval drew Janin, who I mentioned last time, in the first round. He roundly trounced the fast-rising Canadian, who nonetheless made it through qualifying against much more experienced and higher-ranking players. Ujjaval then got blasted himself against Benda, and that was that. As for Prakash Mooljee, he had an interesting first-round encounter with 16-seed Marcelo Herrera, who he had impressively straight-setted in the Australian Open to start this year. On the one hand it was unlucky to get a seed right away, on the other if he won it was basically a ticket to the third round before he'd have to deal with another one. This ended up being the best match, by far, of the first round. I had Mooljee as a slight-to-modest favorite here. He's better on hardcourts and pretty much equal otherwhise, and should be able to beat the clay-focused Herrera far more often than not. It could have gone either way, but Peru's no. 3 bounced him 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4. One and done for Mooljee this week meant a lot of training sessions with Anil Manohar, but it still was probably not much worse than what would have been a terrible training week.
Elsewhere in the first round, Garreth McCuskey narrowly escaped Cojanovic 7-5 in the third; Blagota is another of the players in Mooljee's class making their presence felt more consistently. Thiago Herrera was bounced in three by Sampras, and Marcek narrowly escaped another rising player, Moicevic. The second round was mostly routine, with a couple exceptions. American Fabricio Gilardino sent Poilban packing, and Elias Trulsen and Sava Cirakovic, another battle of the established player against the youngster, stole the show with a three-tiebreak affair. Unfortunately Cirakovic was skunked in the decisive breaker, but until then he played very tough.
The third round saw Bjorn Benda tumble out in a matchup of the world's best 32-year-olds against Cestmir Marcek. The Czech no. 2 has looked good the last few weeks, mounting something of a mini-renaissance to stay in the cluster of players just outside the Top 10. Meanwhile, Gilardino struck again, making Anil Mehul his next victim 6-3, 7-5. I was rather stunned by this, even with all the upsets Mehul has endured this year. He was just flat-out outplayed by an unseeded player across the board, unlike some of his earlier losses in which he arguably should have won. And he was in perfect condition. No excuses here, he just got his hat handed to him early on.
Six of the top eight made the quarters, with unseeded Gilardino and #14 Marcek looking to crash the party. Girish Girsh had his first competitive match, taking out Kinczllers 7-5, 6-4 though it wasn't really that close. Three straight weeks he's beaten the Italian. Gustavo Caratti went the distance with Trulsen to win a close one, and the bottom side of the bracket matched up players from a couple of tennis's greatest nations. The Americans were Gaskell and Gilardino, where experience was served in an opening-set bagel en route to a straight-sets win. The Czech Republic's top two met in the last match, and Marcek nearly upended the surging Antonin Iglar before falling, 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-5. It was rather astonishing how close that one was.
In contrast to their recent matches, despite feeling the fatigue, Girsh annihilated Caratti, losing only three games in the first semi. Iglar was given more of a challenge by Gaskell in a fine run for him, but also won in straight sets. That set up an identical final to last week in Canada ... and a nearly identical result; 6-4, 7-6(5), though Girsh was never really in this one despite the scoreline. Iglar has won his 30th Masters, tying him for third place on the all-time list with Martin Prieto. Aside from the quarterfinal against Marcek, he looked very strong. He's not the untouchable force he once was, but he's returned to being the best hardcourt player in the world. Girsh has a serious challenge ahead of him to hold off the Czech. The two of them have now won four each of the eight meetings this year.
Coming Up ...
Mooljee will be back out there in the largest 250 of the year, the Winston-Salem Open in Connecticut. Dudwadkar also will have another event, and then after that the US Open will commence.